So, whilst in the breeding grounds of the Calder, I visit the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, town of my birth.
I have the impression that all this malt whisky connaiseurship is a fairly modern thing and in a way alien to the West Highland approach to drinking. This way of drinking could be defined as, drink whatever you can whenever you can, if possible diluted with Irn Bru.
Yet now I read this sort of insanity about one of Springbank’s whiskies.
“The nose is a overwhelming mix of aromas. First, subdued sweet sherry (orangettes, raisins, tobacco, roasted almonds) with hint of mint, coriander and liquorice. But soon this is all covered in a layer of almost sulphury smoke, wet stones and codliver oil. Finally some rough grains and fresh wood shavings. I guess each cask has its say, but in the end it is quite the cacophony.
The attack, which is quite oily, is fairly sweet. Again, the sherry pipes up first. Orange peel, raisins, caramel, wood spice. Luckily the sherry also speaks the loudest. The subtle peat peeks around the corner and midpalate you will also taste some brine. Nice spices.”
My hackles rise as I detect the dreaded “culture vultures” so disliked by my Father. Maybe the writer is French! How did they infiltrate the joy of drinking whisky on the end of a pier as the waves pound in, the rain lashes and the chorus chants:
“Why should I sit and sigh
Pulling bracken, pulling bracken
Why should I sit and sigh
All alone and weary”
Springbank is I think the only malt whisky that is still a family business. All the others are owned by Suntory, BP, Aramco, the Church of England and so forth.
During the tour there is a lot of pleasing talk of shovelling – shovelling grain, shovelling malt, shovelling peat. During the bottling, 10 people are lined up to do a job which frankly one could do with a machine but hey! – this is Campbeltown. Do we care about efficiency? Have we ever cared about efficiency? There are more important things like er, well, you know.
Anyway my Father always said that Springbank was the best whisky so I guess that is good enough for me. The tour was refreshing in the lack of any mention of computers, time management, updating processes and stuff. The Springbank people have been distilling in the same place for 150 years or so and are right on top of their jobs.
After the tour I go to Eaglesomes to buy some bottles. The young man serving me drops a bottle on the floor!
We look at each to see who will be first to get down on our hands and knees to lap it up.